5 Must-Do Fall Adventures in the Smoky Mountains

The best hikes and adventures to see the autumn colors.

By: Jared Beeler + Save to a List

1. Morton Overlook

Morton Overlook is the number one on my list because the colors here will start to change sooner than the other locations. It is located just inside of Tennessee on highway 411. Like many of the pull-offs along the highway, it can be quite beautiful but this one is especially great in the fall because you can see all the way from the higher elevations to the lower elevations so you can see the expanse of the color change through the evergreens of the Smokies.   

2. Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge parkway is known as one of the most beautiful drives in America, so of course it also has to be amazing in the fall. It has everything from high elevations in the 6000s and lower elevation, so it's perfect for when colors are changing so you can always get a good view of the beautiful colors. The drive also offers some great photography on the road and off. The best viewing will be in the lower elevations since they will have more deciduous trees instead of the evergreens of the higher elevations.    

3. Cherohala Skyway

The Cherohala Skyway is another one of the most scenic highways in America. It runs through the lower part of the smokies near Robbinsville, North Carolina. What makes this drive so great is the fact that it has great colors and great hikes along the skyway. There are also some great places to camp nearby off the parkway. The colors in the lower elevations are usually better especially heading into Robbinsville from Tellico Plains. 

4. Cades Cove

Cades Cove is inside of the national park near Walland, Tennessee. The drive can sometimes be crowded but still worth it. During the fall you can see the leaves changing colors and see deer and lots of bear foraging for food for the winter. On the drive you can also see the beautiful colors all round you in the valley and on the mountain tops. The drive is also a great way to spend the day because you can have a picnic along one of the many hikes through the valley.  

5. Max Patch

Max Patch mountain is located near Hot Springs, North Carolina off of interstate I-40. The drive to it can be just as beautiful as the hike to the top. The hike to the top of the mountain can be very beautiful in the fall especially if the flowers on the mountain are blooming. When you get to the top it can be quite cold and windy so you might want to bring a jacket or coat in late fall. From the top you will be able to see all of the surrounding mountains and valleys with the beautiful fall colors.  

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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